Fernandel’s talent, charm, and unique appearance made him a beloved figure in the world of comedy.
His ability to bring laughter to audiences will forever be remembered, and his enduring legacy continues to inspire generations of comic actors.
Who Was Fernandel?
Fernand Joseph Désiré Contandin, better known by his stage name Fernandel, was a highly acclaimed French comic actor.
Fernandel was born on May 8, 1903, near Marseille, France, to Désirée Bedouin and Denis Contandin, who were originally from Perosa Argentina, a town in the province of Turin, Italy. He rose to prominence in the realm of humour, performing in French vaudeville, operettas, and music-hall revues.
Fernandel’s stage name stems from his marriage to Henriette Manse, the sister of his best friend and regular collaborator, Jean Manse.
Because he was so dedicated to his wife, his mother-in-law jokingly referred to him as Fernand d’elle, which translates to “Fernand of her.” This affectionate moniker stuck, and he was referred to as Fernandel for the remainder of his career.
Fernandel made his cinema debut as a comedy actor in 1922 and quickly rose to prominence. He made his film debut in 1930, and he remained one of France’s finest humorous actors for the next four decades.
In the Don Camillo series of films, he played an irascible Italian rural priest, which was one of his most adored roles. His portrayal of this character won him fans, and his unusual horse-like teeth became a hallmark.
Fernandel worked largely in French movies, but he also worked in Italian and American films. He made his Hollywood debut in the film “Around the World in 80 Days” in 1956, as David Niven’s coachman.
This outstanding performance landed him a role in the 1958 comedy “Paris Holiday” alongside Bob Hope and Anita Ekberg.
Fernandel directed and co-produced numerous of his own films in addition to acting. His talents extended beyond the cinema, and in the 1960s, his performances in television commercials for Dubonnet enhanced his popularity in the United Kingdom.
He quickly became a household name, delighting audiences with his catchphrase, “Do ‘Ave A Dubonnet.”
Fernandel’s life was tragically cut short by lung cancer. He died on February 26, 1971, and was buried in Paris, France, in the Cimetière de Passy. Despite his premature demise, Fernandel made a lasting imprint on the world of film.
Fernandel was also a loving father. He has two daughters, Josette and Janine, as well as a son, Franck, who became an actor and singer.
Franck collaborated with his father on two films, “L’ge ingrat,” directed by Gilles Grangier, and “En avant la musique,” directed by Georges Bianchi.
Fernandel’s contributions to French cinema were so great that his impact extended into literary circles. Meursault and his companion Marie Cordona see a movie starring Fernandel the day after Meursault’s mother’s burial in Albert Camus’ novel “The Stranger.” Meursault described the film as “partially funny but ultimately stupid.”